Japan itinerary: How to get the best out of Japan in 10 days


 

Japan itinerary – Kyoto

We spent a lot of time researching our trip to Japan and planning the perfect 10-day Japan itinerary, so this post is here to help you save time when creating your own Japan trip. I hope you find it useful, and do feel free to add your own Japan tips/questions in the comments.

A ten-day Japan itinerary
As readers of this blog know, we normally adopt a ‘slow travel’ approach, spending days or even months in one place, but with Japan it was different. It had topped our wish list for years, but we were always put off by the expense. We kept saving it for “a time when we had money”. So, when we were invited to a wedding in Seoul, and found out it’d only cost £80 to add a stop in Japan, we decided the time was finally right. We had a limited amount of time and money, so we wanted to try and fit in as much as possible into the ten days in Japan. This meant there were moments where it felt rushed compared to what we’re used to, but looking back, I wouldn’t change it as those moments of busyness were worth it for the things we saw. We also managed to fit in many moments of calm, which helped to balance the fast-paced travel. Of course, it would have been nice to stretch the trip and spend a few days in each place to soak everything in some more, but for the time and money we had, our Japan itinerary worked really well.

A 10-day Japan itinerary – including things to do, accommodation, and vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

Creating your perfect Japan itinerary
Depending on your priorities, you might like to skip some things and add extra time to some of the others, but if you’re looking for a good introduction to Japan then I recommend our trip wholeheartedly. We’ve also written a storybook version of the itinerary with lots of photos to inspire you. And have a look at our travel resources page for lots more money- and time-saving tips.

Is Japan as expensive as people say?
Regarding price, Japan wasn’t as expensive as we had imagined. It’s very pricy in comparison to south-east Asia, but the costs were comparable to London. For example, you could get a coffee for about £2.50, and an average dinner at a mid-range restaurant cost around £30 for two people without alcohol. At lunchtime, we spent as little as £6 each for a curry. Our accommodation cost from £60-£150 per night for two people, sometimes including breakfast and dinner. This was on a moderate budget where we sometimes splashed out but other times stayed in a hostel or AirBnB (by the way, if you sign up with this link you’ll get £25 off your first booking). We never went full luxury as the prices were sky-high. Details of all the places we stayed are included in the Japan itinerary below. You can also use this discount code to get £20 off your first booking with Booking.com.

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How is Japan for vegetarians?
One of the most common questions we get is: Is Japan good for vegetarians?, and the answer is kind of. We ate really well in Japan, and with a bit of effort were able to find great Japanese vegetarian options, but there were also times when we struggled. Those times were the evenings when we decided to simply walk around a city and choose somewhere without any research. Unfortunately, I don’t like nori, which means our options were limited even further. On one of those nights, we ended up eating pizza and the other night, we finally found an okonomayaki only to find that the chef had covered it in fish flakes (this was despite us seeing him start to do this and reminding him we didn’t eat fish. He was adamant that fish flakes didn’t count!). I would recommend doing a little bit of research before you set out each day so you know where to find the good veggie food. All of the restaurants recommended in this itinerary are vegetarian-friendly.

Getting around Japan
We’ve added transport and accommodation info to each section of the itinerary. The days overlap for each place as we often spent the morning in one place before travelling on to the next. One top tip if you’re traveling long distances is to get a Japan Rail (JR) Pass. You have to order this before you enter Japan (there is no leeway on this) – they send you a ticket called an ‘exchange order’, which you then exchange for the pass once you’re in Japan. To work out if getting a pass is worth it, you can estimate out how many train journeys you’ll be taking and add up the prices using Hyperdia, which is a really useful Japanese website detailing all the transport timetables. We only saved about £40 by getting a rail pass, but some people save a lot more when they cover longer distances than we did. Another benefit of having a rail pass is that you don’t have to buy tickets for each individual train – you simply show your pass at the gate.

It’s important to note that the pass isn’t accepted on every single train in Japan – for example we couldn’t use it for the Hakone loop or for some of the private local train lines within Kyoto. There’s an option on Hyperdia where you can search for trains that are only included with the JR Pass.

The passes are available for 7, 14 or 21 days and you can get an ordinary pass or a green pass, which allows first-class travel. We went for the ordinary one, which cost ¥38,880 (£230) for seven days. We now know you can get a pass for less money by booking through this website; for example our pass costs around £201 with them.

Also remember to accurately time the day you activate your JR Pass so that you can make the most of it. Because we had a 10-day trip and only a 7-day pass, we activated it on day 4. This worked well as our first three days were in Tokyo where we could buy a subway ticket instead.